I was left alone yesterday to my own devices. What does one do? I mean, I have become pretty out of practice for such a thing. Where once I was a roamer, I have become a homebody.
But what do you need? I got my stuff together. A Vespa with a couple dollars worth of gas. A pretty canvas bag. A notebook and a pen. A pair of (tortoise shell) reading glasses. A cool-ass camera.
A perfect Saturday, bright and clear and blue. There are still nice shadows, good bas-relief.
I get ahead of myself, however. Before this, I went to the gym, did a brief workout, then lay in the mid-morning sun for half an hour or so. I had been beautified the night before. And almost unbelievably, I have lost some of my girth.
But on my way home I got into a "thing." A traffic thing with a woman who decided to stop in the middle of the road. And even though she was wrong, she decided to lecture me. Thirty-something, upper middle class, probably medicated, an entitled woman with a voice to make you want to commit atrocities. I drove off, but then I thought of something I forgot to tell her. Yea, I know, but sometimes people need to be told things, so I did a u-turn and pulled into the parking lot she had gone into. I pulled up beside her Land Rover, rolled down my window, and let her know she was the one breaking the law. Maybe I told her something else, too. Then a fellow comes around from the far side of her car. "Yes!" I thought. "Yes!" And he was coming at me aggressively, yelling at me like a soldier or a cop, and I was grinning ear to ear and I heard myself say, "Really! You want this?" as I was turning off the engine and getting out of the car, and oh, he was still yelling but I closed the distance between us quicker than he was closing the distance to me and I really, really wanted to hit him, maybe not him, but something and I know it was this mouthy, smug woman who really needed to know the dangers of life but he was there and I was happy, and when I got to punching distance, his attitude changed so suddenly that he lost his breath and his face was drained of blood so that he was corpse white, and he took a step back. He had an accent that I couldn't quite place--Polish, Czech, Ukrainian--and he, too, was thirty-something and taller than I, and I couldn't believe that he had lost the moment so badly, and then I heard the woman yelling in that still-medicated agonizing voice, "Call 911, Call 911," and the newly minted pussy began pulling his phone from his pocket saying, "I'm calling 911," and I was just grinning maniacally at him wanting to hit him with all my strength but realizing that I would not look like a victim when the cops showed up, so I said, "Fuck yea, call 911, you're the fucking criminal," and then I said, "Better, I'll call them," and I stepped to my car as if to get my phone, but when I opened my door, I slipped in behind the wheel and started the car, backing out so they couldn't see my license tag, and I drove away making a clean escape.
Now I know what you are thinking and I know what you would say if you were sitting across from me while I told you that story.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?"
But after feeling like a leaf on a tree that begins to blur into the background the day before, at my considerably advanced age, I enjoyed feeling rage and power come back to me in some form. Am I an asshole? Yes, probably, but that woman voted for Trump for sure and has never worked a day of her life and she and her ilk sit in this smug, contemptuous place where everything is built to protect her sick little assumptions and values.
I don't think our little exchange changed anything for her, though. She was just as much of a shit when I left as she was before. The fellow changed quite a bit, I think, but I failed to instruct him on how to deal with her, so I didn't really do much good at all. In truth, I am glad that I got away without the interference of the proper authorities.
It took me a while to calm down afterwards as you might imagine, but when the adrenaline was gone, I was hungry, so I showered and got my little bag and climbed onto my Vespa and went to lunch feeling righteous and something else. I went to the Boulevard and had a fish sandwich and two glasses of Sangria. Whatever, dude. I can drink Sangria if I want.
Back on the scooter, I headed away from my little village toward the big city, and with no passenger to worry, I took the quicker streets that I rarely travel, sun in my face, wind in my hair. The town seemed virtually trafficless.
I drove the main street through the downtown area searching for something interesting, but there was hardly anyone about. Then, as I was sitting at a red light, a group of five African American gentlemen came around the corner screaming at traffic and waving what looked to be a wrestling championship belt, holding it high in the air, but the gentlemen weren't the size of professional wrestlers, and I wondered what was going on. As they approached me where I sat manly on my little scooter with my expensive canvas bag and Ralph Lauren sunglasses, I raised my black power fist in the air and let out a cracker, "Yea!" They screamed and shook the belt toward me as they walked by, and I thought, "Jesus, man, take a picture." I thought to circle the block, but when I got to the next street, it was blocked off by barricades. I pulled past the "No Thru Traffic" sign and stopped at the metal blockades in the middle of the road. Above the street, I saw a big WWE banner announcing tomorrow night's bouts, so I pulled my Vespa up close to the metal barriers to park. As I did, a fellow urged me to pull onto the sidewalk. Seemed that maybe he was drunk. I cut the engine and grabbed my bag and followed him into the crowd.
It was nothing, really, just a bunch of street vendors and beer carts and commercial radio station tents, working class men and women walking around with beers in their hands looking around like they had lost their dogs or misplaced a t-shirt, but I walked through taking a few pictures here and there, up the street and back. Then, from behind me, I heard a voice ask, "What camera is that?" A tall, black man stepped up beside me. I saw that he had a little Sony a7ii in his hand. We chatted about cameras for a bit, and then he asked me if I had an instagram account. Nope, I said, but he did, so I pulled out my phone and told Siri to take a memo. I told him I would look up his work and said I'd probably see him again. And he said, "Yea, I've seen you on your scooter before."
My scooter wasn't in sight, and I realized that I was cutting a higher profile than maybe I'd like. When strangers on the street in a big city tell you they've seen you before. . . .
Back on the Vespa, I crawled through downtown and stopped at a Saturday street fair that went around the famous downtown lake, and I tried to take more pictures of people who don't know what else to do on a most beautiful Saturday afternoon, then, beginning to get bored, I made my way back to my scooter and took the long, slow way home.
I poured a drink and put the SD card into the computer and watched the afternoon images download. When they were done, I picked a couple to process and had another drink.
It was somewhere between late afternoon and early evening, but I was hungry and thought of the great Ramen noodle restaurant I'd been to the week before. I waited a bit so that I would not seem as old as I am eating so early, but with the new time, I would have had to wait too long, so I swallowed my pride, grabbed my bag, and got back on the scooter.
You know a restaurant is good when they remember you. The hostess said "Hello again," and seated me in the same spot at the bar. The waitress brought the menu and said, "Welcome back." I'd only been there once.
After last week, though, this was what I needed. My ego needed succoring. And holy smokes, those noodle soups are delicious. I sat at the bar thinking of a couple interviews I read with the writer Lawrence Osborne, thinking what a fop he is and that as good as his writing is, it is flawed, and I wished that I could live his life and be as foppish wearing white linen suits and writing sort of wonderfully and wishing to be paid to do that, but he made some life choices that I didn't and took the more dangerous path.
He says he was a “teenage fuck-up” and didn’t show much academic interest until his late teens, when he decided to learn Greek with the help of “this courtly gay guy teaching at a prep school up the road”. Cambridge was sufficiently impressed to offer him a place to study English, and he went on to a Masters at Harvard but didn’t like the look of academia. “It attracts weak personalities, and I couldn’t see myself playing politics on campus.” Instead he moved to Paris (source).
I should have gone to Paris. Or somewhere. Rather. . . .
But there was the day, a pretty Saturday, and there was more weekend left. And there would be other weekends, with luck, and there might still be time to do something.
And with that. . . I poured an evening scotch and settled onto the couch to read a bit in the eventual darkness under the electric light.